Business group warns NIO minister of 'grave concerns' over no-deal Brexit

(From left) Gordon Milligan, chairman of the Institute of Directors Northern Ireland; NIO minister Nick Hurd and Trevor Lockhart, chair of CBI Northern Ireland

A LEADING business group has warned a Northern Ireland Office minister its members are "gravely concerned" about the impact of a no-deal Brexit.

The Institute of Directors Northern Ireland (IoD NI) hosted a round-table discussion with newly-appointed NIO minister Nick Hurd in Belfast yesterday.

The Conservative minister, a son of veteran Tory Lord Douglas Hurd who served under prime ministers Margaret Thatcher and John Major, followed in his father's footsteps last month by becoming an NIO minister.

Following yesterday's meeting, IoD NI chairman Gordon Milligan said businesses are alarmed by the potential consequences of the UK leaving the European Union in October without a formal deal.

"During a frank and honest discussion, we expressed to him the very real concerns of our members around the dangers of the UK crashing out of the EU without a deal," he said.

"The businesses that we represent are gravely concerned about the potential a no-deal Brexit has to adversely impact the region, given our unique position as the only part of the UK that will have a land border with the EU."

He said his members were particularly alarmed by estimates from the Department for the Economy that a no-deal Brexit could put more than 40,000 jobs at risk in the north.

"If they weren't already, alarm bells should be ringing," he said.

"Skills shortages, already a major concern, are also expected to snowball, and with plans by the Home Office to agree a new £36,000 salary threshold for visas, access to migrant labour – upon which so many of our key employers rely – would be severely compromised.

"This is added to our already disadvantaged position in relation to the apprenticeship levy, into which many of our members pay despite being unable to access the benefits in line with competitors in Great Britain. This has to change.

"We urged the minister to do all in his power to address these issues and will continue to engage with him and others in positions of influence on behalf of our more than 1,000 members and the wider Northern Ireland economy."

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